Airline pilot's waggling wings lead to a grounding

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The Independent Online

A pilot who flew an empty Boeing 767 off its normal flight path to go over his home to show off to his wife has been suspended, along with his co-pilot.

According to a witness, the Britannia Airways plane flew at about 2,000ft and waggled its wings over the town of Congleton, Cheshire, before continuing its journey from Manchester to Ibiza where it was due to pick up a load of passengers.

The witness says the plane circled twice round the town during the incident which happened at 4.30pm on 30 October. The plane would normally have been at about twice that height over the town.

Jeff Gazzard, of Manchester Airport Environment Network which is campaigning against the proposed second runway at the airport, demanded a full inquiry into the incident and into air-traffic control procedures, saying there were serious safety implications: "These big aircraft are simply not designed to make tight manoeuvres at 2,000ft. This may seem very funny and the rest of the crew seems to have been in on the joke, but it was actually a terrible safety risk."

Mr Gazzard also asked why air-traffic controllers did not realise what had happened and intervene: "This occurred in controlled airspace and happened at a busy time ... it probably delayed other flights."

Yesterday, Britannia confirmed that two pilots had been suspended after "a non-standard manoeuvre which may have infringed noise abatement and company procedures". The company, which refused to release their names, is carrying out an inquiry which "could result in disciplinary action".